Manchester City will be desperate to end their barren run in the Premier League as they face an Aston Villa side that appears to be merely counting down the days until their seemingly inevitable relegation is confirmed.
The euphoria of winning the Capital One Cup did not last long for Man City, as just three days later they were sent crashing to a convincing defeat by Liverpool, the same side they edged out at Wembley. It was a result that manager Manuel Pellegrini blamed on the fatigue accumulated by playing three games close together at high intensity, but it leaves them needing something special in terms of the race for the title, while only goal difference is keeping them in the Champions League places.
Even without a couple of key players, City are badly underperforming in the league and they just did not get their game going at all on Merseyside. Sergio Aguero had one of his quietest games of the season, David Silva seemed strangely lethargic, and Raheem Sterling had an evening to forget on his return to his former club as he was withdrawn at half-time. They are overwhelming favourites to win this one, so maybe this can prove the beginning of a storming run between now and the end of the season, something which City are well and truly capable of.
It only took five minutes for Aston Villa to fall behind at home to Everton on Tuesday, a cheap goal which paved the way for another miserable outing which typified the sorry situation that the club finds itself in. That the current team’s ineptitude has led to them becoming something of a laughing stock is a great shame, but despite Remi Garde’s best efforts and his insistence that he is still fighting to achieve Premier League survival, they are just woefully inferior compared to all the other members of the top-flight.
Despite the presence of some very experienced players – a couple of whom have won the league title – they are failing on the most basic aspects of football, such as industry, work rate and marking from set-pieces. After months of admirable support from the stands the fans are beginning to desert their team, and those who make the trip to the Etihad Stadium could be in for a very long afternoon. Garde managed to keep out Man City in his first game in charge, but this one has the potential to be even worse than the 4-0 FA Cup loss to the hosts back in January.
Yaya Toure should be back for Man City, but they are still without Kevin de Bruyne, Fabian Delph and Samir Nasri.
Aston Villa may give a start to Rudy Gestede, while Carlos Sanchez, Adama Traore, Jordan Amavi, Jack Grealish and Libor Kozak are all unavailable through injury.
Last Meeting: A dramatic late winner in April 2015 meant that a superb Aston Villa comeback was in vain. A shocking mistake by goalkeeper Brad Guzan allowed Sergio Aguero give City the lead early on, and Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick made it two. Goals from midfielders Tom Cleverley and Carlos Sanchez pegged them back, only for Fernandinho to make the decisive contribution a minute from time.
Played for both – Darius Vassell: A highly-rated striker when he came through the club’s youth system, Vassell made 162 top-flight appearances for Villa and scored 35 goals, becoming an England international in the process. He left for Man City in 2005, scoring 17 goals in 103 top-flight outings before a combination of injury and intense competition for places saw him leave in 2009.